The Risk and Reward of Going Too Far

Friday 11 May 2018 - Posted by Julia McCutchen

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” T. S. Eliot

I love this quote because I’ve always felt called to explore the realms beyond the boundaries of what others may consider “too far”.

The impulse to investigate the unknown has taken me on some extraordinary inner and outer adventures over the years.

As a result, I’ve discovered what feels like an empowering truth.

It may feel like a risk to step wholeheartedly into the unknown, yet the reward is realizing that it’s also the space of unlimited possibility.

Intriguing Mystery

T. S. Eliot’s words are undoubtedly written from personal experience of the intriguing mystery that’s the ever present source of all.

His magnificent creative output is testament to the degree of risk he was prepared to take.

How far that took him shines through his timeless work and will probably continue to light the path for poets, writers and countless others who draw inspiration from his insightful expression.

Crossing the Threshold

The way I see it, “going too far” points towards crossing the threshold that separates the comfort of the known from the discomfort of the unknown.

It’s risky because “not knowing” is often associated with ignorance and shame, and there’s very little encouragement, guidance or support for learning how to embrace it.

Infinite Potential

Yet the creative process is all about breaking out of the illusory box, letting go of certainties and facing the mystery fearlessly as a way into the uncharted waters of infinite potential.

As author Andre Gide confirms, “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore.”

What’s your reaction to T. S. Eliot’s words and how far are you willing to go? Please share your comments or ask a question below. Thank you!


  • Julia

    THANKS for these quotes and your comments.

    The quotes inspired me today and I wrote them on index cards so that they will appear again my my life later.

    They remind me of the deep patterns of my life. I find the ordinary and conventional perspectives to be agonizingly boring. So I release my curiosity to formulate questions that will explore the causes, essences, factors, forces, key players, etc. That kind of research makes for an adventure and results in layered understandings.

    John S. Oliver

    • That’s a great idea John. Thanks for your comment and enjoy your adventures into layered understandings!

  • Julia,
    Thank you for reminding us that growth or achievement do not come from staying in the familiar, although there’s a time for Rest/Regrouping/reflection as well. for those of us who often lack courage–whether related to creativity or life–Eliot’s words remind us that rewards arise from facing the challenges, the unknown, the difficult. It’s a good reminder when we get discouraged by seemingly daunting or intimidating circumstances that we won’t know until we try, until we take the risk.

    • I absolutely agree about the importance of taking time to rest/regroup/reflect in the comfort of familiar territory. Yet remaining there permanently is unlikely to lead to making new discoveries – about ourselves, our areas of interest or indeed life itself! And you’re so right; we don’t know till we try and taking the risk can occur gently, one step at a time. Thanks for sharing your response and reflections on this post.

  • Dear Julia. I think the threshold can be used as a great place to feel one is setting out from into a new adventure. Actually seeing a start on a project as commencing at this place this can ,I feeel, be used as a source of motivating pleasure that replaces being fearful at moving into the unknown. The threshold crossing also brings a sense of the serious need to step up and out.

    • Hi Peter, yes indeed! Your comment beautifully echoes the Call to Adventure from The Hero’s Journey which is such a significant threshold to cross. As conscious creatives, it’s also a threshold we face not just once but many times.

      The shift from fear to excitement, motivation and trust in the process is an important reframe that opens the way for us to realize the importance of stepping up and stepping out which, as you so rightly say, is a requirement at one level or another. Thank you for your comment.

  • It’s a great and important quote, julia. Thanks for reminding us all. It makes me want to stretch farther, reach farther, dare a little bit more, knowing that I will “fail” sometimes, but even those failures may be just disguised successes. eliot’s quote reminds me of goethe’s famous words, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

    • Hi Peter, that’s great to hear. Enjoy the stretching, reaching and daring a little bit more… and thanks for adding the Goethe quote. Boldness does indeed have genius, power and magic in it!

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